Narrative can only chatter around the edges, as life itself does. Geologically, nothing has happened here. Around the rest of the Pacific Rim, it's been nothing but drama: volcanoes and earthquakes hurling land in to the sky. By comparison, the geological story of Australia is as brief as bad haiku:
Flat orange rock
Nibbled by water and wind
Is still here.
Still here, and impossibly still. None of the visual motion of volcanic and quake-shredded rock, none of the jumbles of texture that mark a land in motion. It's tempting to anthropomorphize -- Australia the old man compared to sexually surging geologic youth around the Pacific -- or to sentimentalize -- Australia's calm refuting the violence of the sea. But this soil lacks even the bare oscillation needed to admit metaphor. There is no story. Time itself seems contingent.
Life is here, but the rock is so big and life so thin that even trees seem painted-on, lichenate. Now and then a wet gully fills to the brim with life, but otherwise life follows the example of the dominant tree, Eucalyptus: white ghostly trunks bearing quick scribbles of greenish-gray, like fleeting clouds over the orange land. Beneath these trees, a heathland of similar color straggles along, diversifying richly and yet never covering the rock enough to raise my attention from it.
I appear to be on the verge of moving here, to the great, still rock. Emotions rush all directions in the face of such a move, though moving seems increasingly to be my own kind of settlement. Will I be at home here? No more than anywhere. Will life seem more transient, or less, on a rock of such age and stillness? There are no answers. Perhaps the eucaypts will teach me the answer someday, but I know better than to ask the rock. Asking would be like scratching, and the rock, when scratched, becomes even more still.